Angel Food Cake

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 10-inch angel food cake
Recipe: 75/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 154

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     I quickly discovered that after making crème brûlées, there is the inevitable “problem” of having 6-8 leftover egg whites. What is one to do with 8 egg whites? is the question I asked myself after having made and devoured last week’s dessert. It suddenly came to me that I had once stumbled upon in this wonderful cookbook a recipe for angel food cake, which requires a lot of egg whites! This is the simple story of why I decided to make an angel food cake for my friend’s baby shower.

Note – as many other things thus far, I had never had or even less made angel food cake, but I knew that it is meant to be snow white. Indeed it was! This cake was pretty simple to make, although I did face an internal dilemma when I read the recipe, which emphasized the fact that the pan used needs to be ungreased. I read this line in the recipe 3-4 times thinking “Ungreased? What is this sorcery?!”. Never had I ever baked something in an ungreased pan. But I went ahead and trusted Anna’s recipe. Now, I think this was partly my fault because since I didn’t have a proper angel food cake pan, I used my bundt cake pan… and the cake got stuck all over the ungreased pan. I assume and choose to believe that it would not have happened if I had used the proper pan. Nonetheless, this cake was delicious!! It was fluffy, light and a touch of sweetness but nothing too sweet, and just a perfect little bite of cake to munch on. It needs no frosting or coverage, it’s that good on its own.

P.S. I had that hardest time finding “fruit sugar” in my supermarket. It is also known as “instant dissolve sugar” or “sugar to be used with fruit” or some such thing. Essentially, what you want is superfine sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups egg whites (about 9 egg whites), at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup fruit sugar (also known as quick-dissolve or castor sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake and pastry flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Using an stand or hand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until they are foamy.
  3. While whipping, slowly add ½ cup of the fruit sugar and whip until the whites hold a stiff peak (i.e. the whipped whites will stand upright when the beaters are lifted).
  4. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift two times the flour, the remaining ½ cup fruit sugar and the baking powder.
  6. Fold in the flour mixture into the whites in 3 equal additions, folding gently but rapidly. Scrape the batter into a 10-inch ungreased angel food pan and bake the cake for 35-45 minutes, until the cake springs back when gently pressed.
  7. Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven, turn the pan upside down, until the cake has cooled completely.

Notes from Anna:

  • The use of fruit sugar is crucial in this recipe since it it a finer grind than regular granulated sugar and dissolves more readily into the egg whites as they are whipped. This results in a delicate and tender cake.

Valerie

Lemon Buttercream

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 6 cups
Recipe: 36/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 181

     I really enjoy buttercream. Used to frost cakes, cupcakes or even to separate and fill the layers in a cake, it is both sweet and rich. Nonetheless, I have only ever made vanilla or chocolate buttercream, with slight variations at times. Lemon buttercream was a first for me. More than that, it was the first time I made buttercream with egg whites as opposed to butter and icing sugar. I was so unsure about the ingredients that I double-, no triple-, checked the ingredients and instructions to make sure that it was indeed a recipe for buttercream composed of plain white sugar and egg whites. Suffice it to say I had my doubts. However, this recipe was in Anna’s cookbook, book that never fails me, so of course I knew it must be delicious and doable.

     I don’t know what happened or at what step I could have made a mistake, but even though I followed the instructions to the letter (in my opinion), it was a total disaster. In all my baking experience and baking mistakes, never had a recipe been so disastrous for me. The buttercream was as liquid as a potage. After whisking for a long time and not seeing a difference in consistency, I added, in desperation and in a last-ditch attempt to thicken the buttercream, what seems to be about 4 cups of icing sugar. Probably not the best move. The consistency did not change but the buttercream was now much sweeter. Being tired and having no other option, I decided to try anyways to pour the buttercream on the cake. As I should have expected, the buttercream covered the whole cake, then went on to cover the plate it was sitting on, the table, and part of a chair. It just would not stop. I put the buttercream-covered cake in the fridge to chill and hoped (almost prayed) that it would solidify. Such a ridiculous attempt at making buttercream with sugar and egg whites has left me no less then flabbergasted and a bit embarrassed, I must add,  as I am sure than many a baker has successfully made egg-white-based buttercream. I will no doubt repeat this recipe to try to understand what I could have done wrong. Mostly, I just need to prove to myself that I can actually do it.

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 2  1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a large metal bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg whites until well combined.
  2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the mixture until it has cooled to room temperature, about 6 minutes. Note that the egg whites will have more than doubled in size.
  4. While beating, add the butter a little at a time, and mix until homogenous.
  5. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat until the buttercream is smooth and fluffy. The frosting is best used at room temperature, but can be stored in the fridge.

Valerie